Amidst the depressing polariation in Congress little attention was paid last week to a rare moment of bipartisan action: the vote by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to move the New Strategic Arms Committee (START) to forward the whole Senate for a vote. Three Republicans joined the Democrats on the committee in voting yes.

Thanks to Rev. Tyler Wigg-Stevenson of the Two Futures Project for sending this report:

Since START I expired last December, 285 days have passed without the critical, trust-building verification mechanisms for the US and Russia. The ratification of New START is urgent—and has thorough bipartisan support, including Secretary Bob Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen and the entire uniformed military leadership, and conservative experts like George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, James Schlesinger, and Colin Powell. You can see a full roster of supporters here

Some Senators have questioned whether the Senate should wait until the mid-term elections, or even 2011, to ratify the Treaty. But experts point to the urgency of resuming verification. "National security doesn’t wait on election cycles, and more than 20 hearings failed to overturn any significant reasons to oppose the Treaty. This isn’t even a debate—there aren’t two equal sides. There’s the simple, nonpartisan truth that New START is good for America and the world, and then there’s the manufactured, ideologically driven, fact-allergic alternative. We’re on the verge of losing the latter half of President Reagan’s ‘Trust but Verify’ maxim. Given the 285 days and counting without on-the-ground verification measures, there is no legitimate rationale for the full Senate not to ratify New START over the next few weeks,” said Rev. Wigg-Stevenson.

Historically, arms control agreements have enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support: the START I agreement passed the Senate with a 93-6 majority. The strong bipartisan support for New START is bolstered by extensive endorsements from religious bodies, including the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Council of Churches, the World Evangelical Alliance, the Executive Committee of the Episcopal Church, and the United Methodist Bishops.

 

The START treaty needs 67 votes for approval.

Tim Reidy